It makes us think that a country with a sublime musical education system like Great Britain has produced so few first-rate pianists. As it is no less striking that many of the best accompanying pianists of the last decades are British, from the great patriarch Gerald Moore to Roger Vignoles, through Graham Johnson, Malcolm Martineau or Julius Drake. Actually, it is very likely that the greatest British pianist was Benjamin Britten. Gerald Moore used to say that Aldeburgh was the only place where his services were not required because they already had the best of them all. And London is or has been adopted by pianists of the likes of Maria Curcio (who trained dozens of talented instrumentalists there), Alfred Brendel, András Schiff or Mitsuko Uchida.
When Benjamin Grosvenor, just eleven years old, was successful in a contest of young musicians of the BBC, the country felt that finally came the talent of the keyboard that had been waiting for so long. In fact, Grosvenor was the first British pianist hired by the Decca label, the most important in the country, after a long hiatus of four decades. At the age of 19, he became the youngest pianist to play at the inaugural concert of the Proms, the summer macrofestival organized by the BBC at the Royal Albert Hall, and since then he has been cementing a very solid career, which has already led him to play with many of the best orchestras and directors in the world.
Works by Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Granados and Ravel. Benjamin Grosvenor (piano). National Auditorium, October 9.
In Madrid, he was heard last March with the Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne directed by François-Xavier Roth, but it is now that he has finally made his presentation in recital. The choice of program betrayed a classical pianist and, at the same time, a lover of virtuosity. It started with an uneven version of the French Suite no. 5 of Bach, with tempi runaway in the first two movements that made it clear that Grosvenor has a fabulous and sure mechanism, but the music did not gain real meaning until the Sarabande, when the waters finally settled down. The added ornamentation, which would be better reserved for the repetitions of each section instead of duplicating it identical, sounded reiterative, since it is usually limited to simple mordants, although the truth is that the excessive velocities of subsequent movements (Bourrée, Gigue) leave no room for much more.
The Sonata K. 333 of Mozart knew a correct version in the two extreme movements (occasionally blurred by an excessive use of the pedal, as had already happened in Bach) and much more than that in the Andante cantabile central, where Grosvenor showed off a sound and a phrasing of high school, with a perfect understanding and translation of the constant harmonic surprises of the second section. He Allegretto grazioso final, played with an impeccable pulsation, it returned to sound, nevertheless, unnecessarily hurried.
Little staff was the translation of the Barcarolle of Chopin, with a prodigious execution of the double trills, but without the music swinging free and spacious as claimed by this music of deceptive innocent appearance. It was a wise move to connect the Polish composer with Granados, one of his natural heirs, whose Goyescas they have been in the Grosvenor repertoire for years. He played very well The requiebros, technically very demanding, although his version would gain a lot with greater flexibility or with a more pronounced emphasis on what Granados himself notes in the score: "garbo y donaire". Instead, he gave us a poetic, heartfelt and intense version of The pestle and the nightingale, although Grosvenor is always closer to contention than to romantic impeachment.
In Gaspard de la nuit, How well does it connect with GoyescasThe prodigious fingers of the Englishman finally found themselves in what seemed to be their liquid element. Touched Ondine with a great sense of color, he wisely and relentlessly maintained the ostinato rhythmic Le gibet and faced the legendary and fearsome demands of Scarbo plenty of resources, provoking a fair enthusiastic response from the public. Grosvenor is not a pianist to use and his sober way of playing is much closer to the pianists of the past than his colleagues millennials, many of them more outstanding of the personal promotion and to call the attention of a way or another that to touch the best possible. His peculiar idiosyncrasy was again revealed in the two unusual tips he played to thank the incessant applause: Studio op. 72 no. eleven of Moszkowski (the old school) and one of the Lyric pieces from Grieg (Erotikk, from op. 43). The Briton will surely mature, his personality still somewhat blurred will be outlined and accentuated, empathize better with the public despite his marked seriousness and his pianism, dazzling from the technical point of view, will become even more interesting and attractive.
The cycle of Great Performers goes through a serious and, apparently, unstoppable audience crisis and the Symphony Hall of the National Auditorium presented a disheartening aspect, with almost two thirds of the seats empty. The talent of Grosvenor did not deserve it.